All the Ridiculous Ways Colleges Justify Cracking Down on Free Speech

  1. Home
  2. Culture Wars
By Andrew Stiles | 6:55 pm, April 13, 2016

On too many college campuses across these days, the concept of “free speech” has become something of a quaint anachronism, as students insist upon existing in “safe spaces” where they’ll never have to confront an uncomfortable thought.

Intellectual and political diversity is frowned upon; conservative speakers are routinely disinvited after students complain. According to a recent Pew survey, 40 percent of millennials favor government censorship of statements “offensive to minorities,” which is significant given their increasingly broad definition of what qualifies as “offensive.”

More: A Defense of Free Speech

The degree to which university administrators have succumbed to demands for censorship on campus is especially disappointing, as are the nonsensical statements some schools have issued in defense of speech restrictions: Of course the university supports free speech, but… 

Ohio University (April 2016)

University president Roderick McDavis, in response to students freaking out over some pro-Donald Trump slogans painted on the campus “graffiti wall” intended to encourage free expression:

[T]his wall is a place of free speech and expression; however, the words painted were troubling because they had a very different meaning to some than they may have to others viewing the message or even to those who painted the message.

Nonsensical pablum. Words are “troubling” if they mean different things to different people? That could apply to basically anything. Makes sense, though, given that everything is problematic.

Emory University (March 2016)

University president James Wagner, following the appearance of numerous “Trump 2016” messages, written in chalk, across campus:

As an academic community, we must value and encourage the expression of ideas, vigorous debate, speech, dissent, and protest. At the same time, our commitment to respect, civility, and inclusion calls us to provide a safe environment that inspires and supports courageous inquiry.

More meaningless nonsense. The real problem is that many students have decided that speech they don’t like is the equivalent of real “violence,” which makes censorship necessary to promote “safety.”

Williams College (February 2016)

College president Adam Falk, announcing that invited speak John Derbyshire would no longer be welcome on campus:

We respect—and expect—our students’ exploration of ideas, including ones that are very challenging, and we encourage individual choice and decision-making by students. But at times it’s our role as educators and administrators to step in and make decisions that are in the best interest of students and our community. This is one of those times.

In other words, students are encouraged to make their own decision when it comes to exploring challenging ideas, unless they make bad decisions about which challenging ideas to explore. In that case, grown-ups should decide for them.

Fortunately, there are still some university administrators who continue to stand up for free speech.